5 Powerful, Yet Simple, Ways to Express Value and Restore Identity to the Kids In Your Life
It is a funny time of year. We’re so thankful for the gift of summer and the vast amount of relational investment it allows, but also thankful that school is starting, with the pattern, schedule and comfortable predictability it brings to our campus. In some ways we’ve been preparing kids all summer to return to school: building their confidence and trust in order that we can now send them off for success at all levels at AISD.
The first day of school brings back so many memories for each one of us: a new pair of squeaky shoes, perfectly sharpened pencils, a favorite shirt and an anxious heart. What is often hidden behind the “prepped and ready” exterior perfection are questions: Will I fit in? Who will I sit with at lunch? Can I do this? Will people like me? Sometimes even, do I like me?
As we prepare for the return to school, it’s an ideal time to do much needed work of restoring identity in the lives of ALL kids – instead of telling kids they look nice, we can talk to them about the importance of being kind; as we pack their backpacks we can remind them that they are packed full of tools that can be used to bless others – being just as concerned with the appearance of their insides as we are their outside.
Of course, those conversations are much harder. There is much more risk involved to explore who kids are instead of what they are. If we believe how they engage the world is more important than how they fit into the world, we will begin to fight for them and alongside them. As we engage kids in the deeper questions of life, they will begin to do life differently.
I know, I know. It sounds nice, but it isn’t natural. Plus, how does it fit into an already busy schedule? That, I believe is the beauty of restoring identities: it happens in the small stuff. As we prepare for the start of the school year, here are some ideas to get us thinking:
- Develop a bed time/morning routine. In addition to getting back on a schedule that will keep you from yelling and being frustrated in the morning, make the last thing and the first thing of the day a statement of encouragement. Say good night and give a compliment of character. Say good morning and communicate how you are excited to see them use their gifts later in the day.
(To make mornings go smoother, try this idea from The Hands Free Revolution: make a morning list of things your child needs to accomplish and help them estimate the time needed for each thing. Slide the list into a clear sleeve and attach a wipe-off marker so the child can mark off each item as it’s accomplished. There isn’t even a need for words – if needed, use picture symbols! This helps your child feel accomplished and responsible while keeping you from telling them over and over, “Put on your shoes”, “Comb your hair!”, “Brush your teeth!”…)
- Use car-pooling time wisely. You have your child trapped in a small space where you don’t have to look directly at each other. This is a much easier time to communicate. Talk about the day together. Too often we talk about what needs to happen instead of evaluating and celebrating how far we have come. Car time is great for encouragement and celebration.
- Plan the next day together. From setting out clothes and discussing “image” to thinking through all the possibilities tomorrow might bring and how they can be handled in advance, planning in advance builds great discussion and promotes confidence. We all like to feel equipped for what happens during the day.
- Plan one on one time. It doesn’t have to be an hour of heart to heart discussions. It might be a trip to the grocery store just the two of you, a Sonic happy hour or sitting on the porch; time is a valuable commodity in our world and giving it intentionally communicates value.
(It’s easy for this to get pushed aside in the busyness of life – one method to keep it easily scheduled is to give each child a later bed-time or some other extra time on the day of their birth each month – eg. the 2nd of each month.)
- Debrief the school day. Sometimes this comes easy, but if it doesn’t, here are 10 life-valuing questions* you can ask throughout the course of a week:
- What was the best thing that happened today?, What was the worst thing?
- Did anyone push your buttons today?
- What did you do that was kind today? Did anyone do anything kind for you?
- Who brought the best lunch today? What was in it?
- What was something you learned about a friend today?
- What made you feel proud today?
- What did you do today that was helpful?
- If you had a chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach?
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Who do you want to make friends with, but haven’t yet? Why?
Listening creates value.
Kids are amazing and kids who understand their identity is firmly rooted in who God made them to be and not the whims of the world around them are even more amazing.
As we prepare to send our valuable kids back to school, join with ACH in “restoring the identity of kids, so they will understand their great value and be a blessing to others.”
Thanks for loving kids,
President Amarillo Children’s Home